Page Hilltop Heads for the Stars!


AYER — Legos, WBZ’s Barry Burbank and a program called STARBASE all have something in common: STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math.

Page Hilltop Elementary School Principal Fred Deppe said that he’s used all of them to educate students on the importance of those fields.

“We’re pursuing it in many ways,” he said.

This year, Page Hilltop will participate in STARBASE Academy, a program sponsored by the Department of Defense that began in 1991. It exposes elementary school students, mostly fifth-graders, to science, math, technology and engineering. According to the website, it serves “students” who are “historically under-represented in STEM.”

Page Hilltop fifth-graders will be bused to Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford for the five-day program. It’s their first time participating. Deppe said that Dr. Mary Malone, Ayer Shirley’s superintendent, brought the program to their attention.

One interesting part of the program is that students and staff have to go by a call sign, he said. While on base, they’re called nothing else. This allows students to let go of their inhibitions, Deppe said. Hanscom, according to the handout, will offer “a solid curriculum of stimulating, STEM-based learning activities involving teamwork, hands-on student involvement” as well as “instruction, lesson plans, materials, support materials, and assistance.”

The handout said that “each class participates for five hours a day, one day a week, for approximately five weeks.” There is no cost to participate.

Starbase’s ultimate goal is this: to show students that STEM fields are fun and important.

“The program is designed to teach the children that these are life skills,” Deppe said.

Nancy Pasquaretta’s classes attended on Monday, Sept. 29, and she said that the students enjoyed it.

“It was good,” she said. “Yesterday, they did an experiment where they were simulating rocket fuel.” They also did one with CAD, or Computer Aided Design, and they learned about Isaac Newton’s laws, she said.

The Hanscom STARBASE facility was “really nice” and the program was “very well organized,” she said.

“They did enjoy it,” she said, adding that they were “definitely engaged. They’re looking forward to going back.”

Abby Hughes, one of the students, said that they “wanted to stay there,” and LeiLana Harmon added that “it was fun.”

“It was really cool. There was a lot of things you could do there,” said Rachael Indorato, another student.

Sammy Lemay said her favorite part was CAD.

Gabby Holland, Lemay, Harmon, Hughes and Indorato all said that they can’t wait to go back on Friday.

According to the handout Deppe sent parents, Pasquaretta’s class, after the 29th and Oct. 3, will go on the 6th, the 15th, and the 21st. Robin Silva and her class began their program on Sept. 30 and will again visit Hanscom on Oct. 7, the 16th, the 28th, and Nov. 4.

“This opportunity will be provided to all of our fifth grade students at some point this school year,” Deppe said in the letter.

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